Disgraced Hillsong founder Brian Houston has been charged with drunk driving in southern California, the latest of several legal charges facing the former megachurch pastor.
Newly uncovered court records reveal that Houston was arrested in Newport Beach, California, for driving under the influence of alcohol on February 26, 2022. The case filed in the Superior Court of California in Orange County also charges Houston with driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, and failure to display two license plates on his vehicle.
Days after the DUI arrest, Houston resigned as global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, after an internal investigation found he had acted inappropriately toward two women. According to Hillsong’s statement at the time, alcohol and medications had played a role in Houston’s misconduct.
In a statement posted to Instagram on Wednesday, Houston referred to the DUI incident as a “foolish decision.” He explained that he drove only “two or three hundred metres (yards) to park the car and I am grateful to God that no damage or injury occurred.”
Houston noted: “At the time it seemed like all hell had broken loose within Hillsong Church and I was under immense pressure and emotional strain. Clearly that is not an excuse, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
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In a statement to media, Hillsong Church said that its board and leadership “did not become aware” of the DUI charge against Houston “until after he had resigned as pastor of Hillsong.” The church added: “As he was no longer on staff, this was a personal matter for Pastor Brian to deal with. As always we continue to keep the Houston family in our prayers.”
When the allegations of misconduct first surfaced against Houston, Hillsong blamed the misconduct on alcohol and anti-anxiety medication.
Hillsong said that at a church conference in 2019, Houston became “disoriented” after “drinking with a group” while also on the medication. Houston reportedly then knocked on the hotel room door of a female conference attendee who was not his wife and spent at least a half-hour alone with her. The church also noted a separate incident, in which Houston had allegedly sent flirtatious texts to a Hillsong staffer.
Houston has denied resigning over the alleged misconduct, saying instead that he felt backed into an “untenable” position by Hillsong board statements. He is set to appear before a California judge on April 4 to answer the DUI charges.
In a separate legal matter, Houston faces an ongoing criminal trial in Sydney, Australia, that began in December 2022. The court is seeking to prove that from 1994 to 2004, Houston intentionally covered up his father’s sexual abuse of a child and only offered information to police after his father died in 2004.
A government inquiry found that Houston became aware in 1999 of allegations that his father Frank sexually abused a boy over several years in the 1970s. Brian allowed his father to retire quietly rather than report him to police. Frank founded Sydney Christian Life Centre, which merged to become Hillsong Church under Brian’s leadership.
Houston has pleaded not guilty to the charge of concealing the serious indictable offense of another person. The case is adjourned until June, when final oral arguments will be presented. A ruling by the Magistrate is expected soon after. If convicted, the court could sentence Brian Houston to a prison term of two years or more.
Most recently, Australian independent MP Andrew Wilkie named Houston in a probe of Hillsong Church finances.
Wilkie used parliamentary privilege to make thousands of pages of documents provided by a whistleblower public, which he claimed show the church – including the Houstons – engaged in mass money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud. Houston claimed those allegations are “either out of context, misleading, or false.”
Subsequently, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) announced it has launched an investigation of claims by Wilkie and the whistleblower. Hillsong Church also announced it will commission a third-party evaluation of its financial structure and processes.
Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.
12 thoughts on “Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Charged with Drunk Driving in California”
Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching. We desperately need more integrity in our ministries and ministers. Thank God for pulling back the veil on those who would seek to conceal sin.
Except it wasn’t really God that pulled back the veil. It was an Australian Government Inquiry and an Independent Australian MP who are bringing forth these revelations. It’s tragic that Christendom’s leaders seem to only be held accountable by secular authorities, IMHO.
Brian Houston’s excuse for turning to alcohol and pills was that he was under immense pressure and emotional strain.
Yes Brian. That’s when you turn to God for strength, not pills and alcohol.
A bible teacher such as yourself and your Hillsong pastors should know that. Church goers all face emotional pressures of life everyday. They expect you to pastor them through the Word to seek God.
Brad. Yes…another sneaky pastor trying to hide evil. Glad for Gods revelation always.
All I see when I look at him and read about his life is a habitual abuser. He seems arrogant. I hope he can truly find a way to heal his broken personality.
Megachurches are a bad idea. Far too much money, power, and adoration for any man to handle. Small local churches that serve their own communities are what we need. The days of the celebrity pastor must come to an end.
Integrity is the lynchpin of leadership traits. It along with accountability is lacking in so much leadership- especially the Mega-church movement. The Celebrity culture has made idols out of mere, fallen men. Here is yet another example. Houston is not a leader worth following and is not conformed to the image of Christ in his actions. He is disqualified as a pastor by 1 Tim. 3:1-7, “… he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
“Alcohol and medications had played a role in Houston’s misconduct,” not sin.
Another grifter posing as a “Christian” pastor. There was always something very fishy about Brian Houston and his brand of megachurch and it looks like the blinders are finally coming off.
At one time Houston said he didn’t have a problem with alcohol or pills I thought? Well, a DUI is a pretty good sign you’ve get a problem with booze! Even if you were just driving a “few meters” to park the car.
If you look at Houston’s eyes in the main picture of this article, it’s as if they tell the complete story. But as long as the consumer mega church exists grifters like this will continue to grift!
why am i not surprised?
“At the time it seemed like all hell had broken loose within Hillsong Church and I was under immense pressure and emotional strain. Clearly that is not an excuse, and I take full responsibility for my actions.” It seems like this is straight from the guilty pastor playbook, blame the sin on the pressure and strain of the ministry, then take it back in the same sentence. Sorry, not sorry.
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